Friday, May 28, 2010

sin & forgiveness

OK, sin and forgiveness is a huge topic . . . but they are what I have been studying in my Bible study homework the last couple of weeks and so I have been thinking about them a lot. I mean, they are not new concepts to me. Growing up in the church, I have always talked about these things and used these words, but the last couple of weeks have been a time when my understanding of them went to a new place. (I really do love it when God takes things I have known about for years and helps me to understand them better in my own life.)

Really, I have been challenged to see that those times when I am facing temptation to sin, I am standing at a crossroads where I can either make the decision to follow God or I can make the decision to give in to my sin. My Bible study homework has been focused on a very well-known Bible story: David & Bathsheba. The account of David & Bathsheba, found in 2 Samuel 11, is really a story of a man who finds himself at many crossroads:
  • David choosing to stay home when Kings usually went out to battle at this time
  • David seeing Bathsheba when she was bathing and inquiring about who Bathsheba was
  • David having Bathsheba come to him and sleeping with her
  • David having Uriah, Bathsheba's husband brought home from battle to try to cover up his getting Bathsheba pregnant
  • David getting Uriah drunk to try to get him to go home to his wife so that he would think that the child Bathsheba was carrying was his
  • David setting Uriah up to be killed in battle
In all of these situations - these crossroads - David could have made a decision not to act in a sinful way. He could have chosen to ignore the woman he had seen bathing. He could have chosen to sleep with one of his wives rather than Bathsheba. He could have chosen to admit his sin and that the child Bathsheba was carrying was his. He could have chosen to let Uriah live and learn from Uriah's integrity.

I wonder how many times we find ourselves in the same situation as David. Maybe we are not looking at another man's wife and making wrong decisions there, as David did, but just the same we are at a crossroads where we have a decision to make. There are many decisions we could be making, and we always have the choice about whether to go the way of sin or to go the way that God calls us to go.

Oftentimes, it can seem much more appealing at those crossroads to go the way of sin. It satisfies our immediate desires. But, what we often do not realize is that sin has serious consequences. David did not get away with his sin. 2 Samuel 12 records Nathan, the prophet, confronting David about his sin and the consequences that David would experience.

Fortunately for David, he made the right choice at this crossroads. When Nathan confronted him with his sin, David acknowledged and repented of his sin. But, that does not mean he did not still experience the consequences and God's judgement of his sin. God's forgiveness did not wipe it out like it had never happened. But, it did allow for David's relationship with God to be restored and for good to come about in the end (Bathsheba would later give birth to Solomon - the next King of Israel), but in the meantime there were both immediate and long term consequences of David's sin.

Psalm 51 records David's cry to God for forgiveness of his sin. David knew God and he knew that he could ask God for forgiveness and for a second chance. It may not have meant that the consequences disappeared, but David knew that God did not despise a broken and contrite heart that truly desired to turn from sin and follow God again. The same is true for us today.

As I have studied these passages and this familiar story this week, I have been challenged in my own life with a few questions that really make you think:

When you find yourself at a crossroads in your life, what is your usual response? Do you take the "easy" way and follow the path to sin? Or do you follow God, even if it is more difficult?

Are you at a crossroads in your life right now? What are your choices? Which choice is the one that you know God is telling you to take? Are you going to take that choice or the other one?

If you have made a bad decision at a crossroad and now find yourself caught up in sin, what are you going to do? Are you going to face up to your sin and the consequences? Are you going to ask God for forgiveness and move towards Him again? Or are you going to choose to keep going down the same path?

Remember, God's forgiveness is there. And it is available to us no matter how far we feel we have strayed. It is never too far for us to return to God.

Monday, May 24, 2010

being Jesus to those around us . . . seeing Jesus in those around us

I started reading a book the other day that has already challenged my thinking and I've only read the prologue. The book is God in the Alley by Greg Paul. In the prologue, Paul is relating a story of his interactions and ultimately friendship with a man dying of AIDS. After sharing about an specific incident of helping this man, he talks about something he realized as he was helping him.

He comes to realize that while he had desired to be Jesus to this man, there was much more to it than that. He also had to be willing to see Jesus in this man. As Paul put it in the book,"My capacity to be the presence of Christ in the world is dependent upon my willingness to see his presence also." (pg. 21). The two are very much inter-connected and "truly being Jesus and truly seeing him cannot be separated." (pg. 21). Paul goes on to talk about how being and seeing Jesus are spiritual disciplines that one must practice as a disciple of Christ.

In describing spiritual disciplines, Paul quotes Henri Nouwen:
In the spiritual life, the word discipline means "the effort to create some space in which God can act." Discipline mean to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you're not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create space in which something can happen that you hadn't planned or counted on. (pg. 22-23)
When I read that, I started to wonder about how well I do at creating space in which God can act - in which something can happen that I hadn't planned or counted on? And how well our society does at this? The honest answer to both question is not very well. We plan and schedule our days, often right down to the last minute - leaving little or no room for the unexpected things of God. But, what would happen if we began to create the space in our lives? What changes would that bring to us? To how we see the people around us?

Greg Paul goes on to say this about being and seeing Jesus:
The disciplines involved in being and seeing Jesus are also forms of spiritual cross-training. The practice of one sharpens the ability to "perform" the other. When I speak of disciplines, though, I don't mean exercises that are performed diligently each day for a short time. I mean the regular, intentional cultivation of an attitude, an awareness such as Paul wrote about in his letter to the Philippians: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus . . ." If I am going to emulate and follow the Master, I need to watch him, listen to him, walk with him, saturate myself with him. Reading and understanding the Bible is, of course, critically important, but it's not enough. Jesus must be allowed to invade my whole life. I need to learn to wear him like a coat, carry him consciously in my heart, and look for him everywhere. (pg. 22)
It is quite clearly that Greg Paul is talking about a lifestyle here, not just something that we check off on a spiritual "to do" list each day. If Jesus is actually allowed to invade our whole lives, what would it look like? What would change about how we live? I've got a feeling there would be a lot of change in most of our lives. The reason for reading our Bible and praying would change too. We wouldn't be doing it so we could get it done or check it off our list for the day. We would be doing it so that we could allow Jesus into more of our lives.

These disciplines of being Jesus and seeing Jesus are disciplines that need to work together, but each is different from the other. Being Jesus is a discipline of action; while seeing Jesus is a discipline of stillness. When we choose to be Jesus we are actively looking for ways to serve others, help those need, and love all people we come into contact with no matter what their place on society's success ladder. Seeing Jesus means we need to learn how to stop being busy and looking for things to do and truly see what is in front of us. Paul describes the tension between these disciplines well:
Being Jesus requires that I choose to be actively present. Seeing him means that, paradoxically, in my being present, I must choose the stillness of being hidden - that is, rather than being focused on what I am doing, and seeking attention for it, I must be actively looking to see how Jesus is presenting himself in and through others. Being present the way Jesus was means that I have to abandon my own power. And seeing him in others teaches me the power of abandonment. Being Jesus is a call to give my life, as he himself indicated when he called us to pick up our crosses. But seeing Jesus opens me up to a new way to live, to a resurrected life. The wonderful gift God gave me through Neil was that moment of revelation - and the continued, growing realization - that being and seeing Jesus are intrinsically connected. In fact, they're often happening at the same time." (pg. 23)
Being Jesus and seeing Jesus are not two separate things - they are connected. And we need both in our lives.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

good idea . . . God idea . . . is there a difference?

At Bible study this past week we were discussing what the difference is between a good idea and a God idea. The discussion arose from our study of David desiring to build a place for the Ark of the Covenant to be in Jerusalem. He came to a realization that while he was living in a palace of cedar, the Ark was in a tent, and he decided that he wanted to build a place for the Ark - the physical place of God's presence with Israel. You can read the account in 2 Samuel 7.

Building a house for the Ark and for God's presence among Israel to dwell was not a bad idea. It was a good idea. But, ultimately, it wasn't a God idea. God did not have in mind for David to be the one to build that place. That job would fall to David's son Solomon, who succeeded David as King of Israel.

David could have gone ahead and built the Temple - built a more permanent place for God to dwell. It was a good idea. But, I don't think that the outcome would have been quite as David expected or desired. God had a different idea and it was much better than David's idea.

So, now that the stage has been set, back to the discussion from Bible study: what is the difference between a God idea and a good idea? How do we know if our idea is a good idea or a God idea? Not the easiest of questions, especially because there may not actually be anything wrong with our good ideas. Like David's they are good things. But, our good ideas don't stand compared to our God ideas - those times when God is definitely the One who has in mind for that to happen through us.

We tossed around a few ideas of what a God idea might be as opposed to just a good idea: something we know if we tried to do on our own we would end up making a fool of ourselves attempting it, something that benefits other people in far greater ways that it would ever benefit us, something that is humanly impossible. Ultimately, the question I left still thinking about from the discussion was asked by one of the other ladies: What if the difference between a good idea and a God idea is who we trust?

I've been thinking about this all week. It's an interesting topic to try to wrap your head around. Is my idea a good idea or a God idea? Is there a difference? What is it? How do I know if my idea is a good idea or a God idea? What if the difference between a good idea and a God idea is who I trust? I think these are questions that I will be wrestling with for a while yet. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, if you feel so inclined to share them.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

mother's day rambllings

Hmm, it's Mother's Day. In many ways, this day snuck up on me this year. Everything was focused towards my sister's wedding last weekend and then about Wednesday this past week I realized that today was Mother's Day. I knew Mother's day was coming at the beginning of May. And I knew I didn't want to forget about the day. But, it definitely came faster than I was prepared for.

So, the past few days I have found myself trying to decide what to do for my amazing Mother for Mother's Day. How can I let her know how much I appreciate her? Last year, I wrote a blog called "tribute to my mom" so in some ways I don't know if there is anything better I can do than that. Every word that I wrote last year about how much I love and appreciate my Mom is still true.

Another thing that I've found myself thinking about a lot in the last couple of days are the other people I get watch as mothers of their own children. In the past year or so a number of my friends have become parents for the first time. Watching them love their children and adjust to being parents has been pretty sweet. I never doubted these friends would make good parents one day and I have seen them become amazing parents to their little children.

Mother's Day has sometimes seemed like a strange idea to me. Why do we have to put a day on the calendar to let our Mothers (and our Fathers on Father's Day) know how much we love them and appreciate them? Isn't this something we should tell them more than once a year? But, then I also think that sometimes it is important to have a day set aside for specific things. Even if we do tell our parents how much we appreciate them on a more regular basis, maybe having a day set aside where we give them a bit of extra attention and appreciation isn't a bad idea. After all they have done for us over the years, they deserve days where they feel special and honoured just because of who they are to us.

Friday, May 7, 2010

trust . . . be still . . .

"Trust in the Lord and do good;
     dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord
     and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
     trust in Him and He will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
     the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
     do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
     when they carry out their wicked schemes."
                                               -Psalm 37:3-7

"Be still, and know that I am God;
     I will be exalted among the nations,
     I will be exalted in the earth."
                                                -Psalm 46:10

Trust and be still . . . these seem to be common themes that have been coming up in my life lately. Neither of the are things that I am really very good at. In fact, I often balk at the idea of doing either of them. I want to know the whole plan ahead of time and I want to have something to do at all times to make that plan happen. God does not always work this way.


TRUST . . .


BE STILL . . .

Trust God that he knows what is happening when I do not.
Trust God that we He asks me to do, He will equip me to do.
Trust God that even when it seems impossible, He can do it, because nothing is impossible for Him.
Trust God the even when I cannot actually see the place where my foot will land with the next step, He knows and He will not leave me to stumble around not knowing where to place my foot.

TRUST . . .


BE STILL . . .


Be still and do not move just because I feel like I need to do something.
Be still and listen for God's voice guiding me where to go or what to do next.
Be still and allow another to experience the consequences of a choice they made rather than trying to fix it for them.
Be still and be okay with doing nothing sometimes.

TRUST . . .

BE STILL . . .

Counter-cultural - our culture tells us to do what we feel is right and that being busy is something we should be proud of.
Difficult - neither comes naturally to us. We have to choose to do both.
Scary - How do I know I can trust? What will happen if I do not do something in that situation?


TRUST . . .


BE STILL . . .


God commands us to. And when we actually do trust and are still when He says, the outcome is better that we could have imagined or could have made happen ourselves.

TRUST . . .

BE STILL . . .

How are you doing with trusting God?
How are you doing at being still?